What is legal aid?
Legal aid is the use of public funds to help you meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal. Applications for legal aid are made by a solicitor who has contract with the Legal Aid Agency and whom you want to instruct to advice or represent you. Your application is decided by the Legal Aid Agency and if it is successful, you will be granted a Legal Aid Certificate specifying the area of law and cost limits. Certificate can also be time limited but both time and cost limits can be extended, if necessary.
The application usually consists of three stages:
First: Whether your problem is within scope of Legal Aid
A lot of family matters are within scope for example divorce, financial relief, child arrangements issues such as whom the child should live with or spend time with and domestic abuse matters.
You will find more detailed guide under this link.
Call us and ask if you are not sure if your matter or a part of a problem would qualify for public funding.
Second: Whether you are financially eligible (means test)
This test applies to all family matters except for care proceedings. Is your child subject to care proceedings or the social worker told you they plan to make an application to court?
You need to show that you cannot afford paying for legal services. The rule is that your disposable income, that is the money, which are left in your hand after paying taxes, rent and other costs should not be more than £733. Unfortunately, there are costs, which cannot be deducted such as council tax or bills, but there is a number of fixed costs, which you are allowed to deduct if they apply to you – £45 for travel to work, or £291.49 for each child, £181.91 for partner. If you have a partner his income will be considered as well.
Rules of calculation are quite complicated as they depend on your circumstances but the Legal Aid Agency has made an online calculator which is easy to use for a member of public. You will find it here.
You will need to prepare documents to be sent with your application. You will find the list here.
Third: Merits test
The last part of the application is merits test, which assess the likelihood of success, the reasonableness of the costs, and whether a reasonable person would use their own money to pay for the case. This is something that your solicitor will be able to assess.
Please note that the above guide is very brief and we suggest that you contact us to check you qualify for public funding.